Lottery operator Camelot is not the first to suffer the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome, but if the facts had been forced home earlier, Camelot could have avoided much of the flak, says Alex Sandberg, director of College
Crisis management? Damage limitation? There’s a new one. Success
management has definitely arrived. Such is the British way: achieve
something exceptional, get properly awarded along the way, and you can
count on flak of truly epic proportions. So it was that the Camelot
Success Crisis Management machine cranked into action this week to
protect the management from the predictable reward of their own success.
To say the team faced an ‘uphill struggle’ would be a serious
understatement. The work done during the Lottery bidding process
positioned Camelot brilliantly. Camelot looked and felt dead right - a
winner - then all went quieter.
As chief executive Tim Holley has conceded, the management had to be
more concerned with getting the Lottery systems in place than with PR,
and that is understandable, given the enormity of their task. But how
much more potency would those impressive statistics wheeled out around
the results have carried had they been given exposure earlier and on a
regular basis since the Lottery launch?
And that pounds 0.5 million donation to charity. OK, Camelot has
shareholders, but they did get an pounds 18 million dividend this year.
Surely given the scale of the whole thing - pounds 5 billion sales in
year one - a chunkier donation, linked perhaps to the scale of ticket
sales would have gone a long way to diffusing what was sadly an
inevitable howl from interested parties and the GBEs (Great British
So, to the campaign. At the end of this round - and this fight will go
the distance - I would say the GBEs are ahead on points. But Camelot has
made up a great deal of ground and under the circumstances, that is a
result for them. All the leaders in the national press gave Camelot’s
case a good airing and a number of them came out forcibly on the side of
the Camelot management.
The snappy advertising certainly got attention, generating mostly the
desired effect and it certainly levelled the playing field through
punchy delivery of the facts. But more, earlier and regularly from now
on. You don’t buy opinion overnight and Camelot’s agency has got its
work cut out in the coming months.
On the basis that the interested parties and whingers were going to live
up to their reputations, Camelot made the right decision to come out
fighting. But the big issues are still there: the threat of public
ownership under a Labour Government, the naive twinning of Camelot with
the excesses of the privatised utilities, Richard Branson’s GTech
litigation. These are daunting challenges for the Camelot communicators
to relish. I wish them success.